'It's an absolute disgrace'

The Manchester clubs break away, and the rest of our Monday briefing

Dear Millers — welcome to this week’s Mill briefing.

Our weekend read about a man living on his own in a council block in North Manchester got a great response from readers on social media. Thanks to the many of you who shared the piece on Twitter and voted it to the top of the Manchester forum on Reddit. If you missed the story or what to share it, you can find it here.

This week’s weather

Making some news

We got some great publicity last week when Substack — the site we use to publish our newsletters — announced it was investing in local news to try to help other journalists start their own outlets. The company mentioned The Mill as an example of how subscription-based newsletters can provide a way forward for local news, and the top US media commentator Peter Kafka wrote about us on Recode too.

The renaissance of quality local news is gathering pace, with Manchester leading the way. Thanks very much to our members for allowing us to do what we do. If you want to join them, please hit the button below.

Cartoon by Mill member and longtime Private Eye sketcher Tony Husband. The beers might have been generously chilled thanks to the Mancunian climate, but that didn’t stop people from enjoying the city’s reopening, as we documented in last week’s members’ piece: ‘The sounds of a city as it reawakens at last’.

The big story: The role of hospitality

The top line: It’s now a week since Greater Manchester re-opened, with thousands of non-essential shops, gyms, hair salons, pubs and restaurants doing their first significant trade for months. The re-opening of hospitality, in particular, has changed the atmosphere of our high streets and raised hopes for a strong economic recovery this year.

Hospitality is central to the DNA of Manchester in particular. The city’s nightlife is famous, and getting it back up and running this summer will help us to attract visitors from across the country, especially because there is so much uncertainty about the viability of foreign holidays. There is currently an advertising campaign running to persuade Brits to explore the cities of the North, for example.

So, how many people are employed by the hospitality sector and what role might it play in Manchester’s recovery?

The data: The Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Blueprint says 414,000 people work in the night-time economy, which constitutes an enormous 33% of the GM workforce. But, two-thirds of these workers are nothing to do with hospitality: they work in 24-hour health and social care, manufacturing and logistics — jobs that happen to be done at night.

  • Figures released by Andy Burnham indicate that 83,000 people are employed by pubs or in accommodation and food services. One expert we spoke to estimated the figure working in hospitality might be around 100,000, which is around 8% of the 1.3 million GM workforce.

  • By contrast, 220,000 people, 16.2% of the GM workforce, work in wholesale and retail trade, while 174,000 work in human health and social work activities.

And remember: Hospitality roles are among the worst paid in the economy. A GM labour market review says the Gross Value Added per employment of the hospitality, tourism and sport sector is £22,816 — the lowest of any industry. This means that the industry’s contribution to the GM economy will be well below 5%.

The bottom line: The reopening of bars and restaurants is a hugely exciting moment, especially in a city that is known for its great hospitality. It’s especially good news for the tens of thousands of young workers who are employed in these jobs and haven’t been able to work from home. But even with packed tables and hours-long queues to get one, the food and drink industry represents a highly visible but relatively modest section of our economy.

  • Strong economic recovery in GM will require our universities to come back strong, lots more investment in companies that create highly-skilled jobs, our technology sector to continue its upward trend and for policymakers to address the issue of low pay in the massive social care sector. Those challenges lie ahead, and local politicians should be quizzed about how they will navigate them during this election campaign.

Data reporting by The Mill’s Andrew Dowdeswell.

Mill elections coverage

The bumper local and mayoral elections on May 6th are now less than three weeks away. Mill members will be getting regular updates and reporting in their inboxes. Last week they received our analysis of Andy Burnham’s manifesto launch, and what he is promising in a second term.

Our bumper preview guide to the local elections is here, and this week we will be publishing a special report from Stockport, where Labour is in danger of losing the council to the Lib Dems. Join us as a member now to get all our coverage in your inbox.

Don’t forget: The deadline to register to vote is midnight tonight. It takes less than two minutes — click here to do it now.

Covid-19 update

  • Case rates: Greater Manchester’s case rate — the number of confirmed new cases per 100,000 residents in a week — is now 42.4, down 11.7% versus the last week. The rate for England is 26.4, down 8.9%. The highest rates are in Manchester, Oldham and Rochdale — all in the mid-to-high 50s. The lowest are in Trafford, Tameside and Bury, all in the 30s.

  • Hospitals: The number of Covid-19 patients in critical beds in GM hospitals has fallen to 40, down from 48 the week before (these numbers were updated on Wednesday last week). Hospital admissions with Covid rose very slightly, from 34 to 41 last week. And the total number of people in hospital with the disease outside of critical care fell to 191, down from 219.

  • Vaccinations: 52% of adults in GM have had their first dose of one of the vaccines, and 14% have now had both doses. Amazingly, those numbers are 94% and 57% for the over-70s. See the graphic below for more details.

Home of the week

This beautiful two-bed flat inside a Grade II listed building on Chepstow Street is opposite the historic Peveril on the Peak pub. It’s on the market for £350,000.

Five stories worth reading

1. Manchester clubs break away

"Manchester United, 100 years, born out of workers from around here, and they're breaking away into a league without competition that they can't be relegated from? It's an absolute disgrace.” That was Gary Neville’s reaction to the news that six English clubs — including City as well — are planning to create a new European “Super League”.

2. The life of Harry Evans

“At his first-ever job on a newspaper, at the Ashton-under-Lyne Reporter, outside his home town of Manchester, the young Harry Evans was approached by a surly editor who demanded that Evans tell him exactly how many spokes there are in a bicycle wheel.” This New Yorker piece follows the career of Evans, who made his name on the Manchester Evening News before going on to edit The Sunday Times.

3. Revenge of the North

“The southern lords are essentially treacherous and conniving, the southern capital of King’s Landing a pit of snakes; the North is poorer and has its dangers but it is a place where people show loyalty to each other, and its rulers look their people in the eye.” So says a great piece about “How Game of Thrones saved the North” on the website Unherd, that combines history, myth and TV criticism.

4. Memory in Manchester

“Soon, I got annoyed that Manchester seemed fixated with an alternative past: the late 1980s, Ecstasy-fuelled ‘Madchester’ bands, particularly The Stone Roses, more laddish and upbeat than my favourites.” Juliet Jacques writes about nostalgia, writing memoirs, and Manchester in this 2015 Granta piece.

5. Riley’s new novel

“I thought, ‘Well, they’re just sentences, aren’t they? Well, you can write sentences.’” Described as “crisply devastating” in this New Statesmen article, Gwendoline Riley’s new book My Phantoms delves into a fraught mother-daughter dynamic. Riley is closely associated with Manchester — she studied and based two of her most-loved novels here.

A man walks in front of Captain Sir Tom Moore mural in the Northern Quarter. Last Monday saw crowds return to the streets as hospitality, non-essential retail and gyms reopened. Photo Dani Cole: The Mill.

Things to do this week

Walking | Now the weather seems to be turning for the better, take a gander through the streets with Free Manchester Walking Tours. Running every day at 11am, meet at the Alan Turing Memorial. If you fancy a walk during the week, book here. At the weekend, simply turn up.

Exhibition | This week OT Creative Spaces is running an exhibition celebrating Fashion Revolution Week in Old Trafford’s Hullard Park. People are encouraged to use scraps of clothing to make their own mini-garments. Pop along and take a look.

Literature | This evening the star novelist Kazuo Ishiguro will be in conversation with Jackie Kay as part of Manchester Literature Festival. He’ll be discussing his new book Klara and the Sun. They’ll be mulling over the question of what makes humans unique. Book tickets here.

Podcast | This 2011 episode of BBC Radio 4’s The Long View takes a look at how The Manchester Guardian dropped ‘Manchester’ from its title. It was keen to show the rest of the country it wasn’t just a regional paper and wanted to establish a reputation. Listen now on BBC Sounds.

We love this footage of an elephant walking through Openshaw with a police escort and a curious crowd.

Letters to the editor

Thank you for publishing your piece about ‘Martin’ this weekend (‘A quiet life on the edge of Manchester’). I was moved by the way the story got across the quiet dignity of the man. It’s easy for those of us with families and lots of friends on WhatsApp to feel quite connected, even in a year of Covid, but we tend to forget about people like this guy, whose life has carried on more or less unchanged. Frankie Brown, Bolton

I agree with David Barnett in his funny piece about the history of holidays in the North West (‘10p for the first one to see the Tower...’) when he writes that we shouldn’t call them staycations. The trips he describes to Blackpool and Wales are just holidays — good old-fashioned ones that generations of our families have taken. I’m grateful that the piece reminded me of “wakes weeks” when whole towns decamped to the seaside together. What a different world! Jenny Brown, Bury